Proposals in the Education and Training Bill 2019 introduced in Parliament yesterday include religious instruction being offered on an opt-in basis, loosening the laws surrounding teachers using force on children, and giving the Education Review Office (ERO) more powers to review the quality of home based early learning services.

“The Bill’s rewrite of education legislation is long overdue,” Hipkins said yesterday.

"Indeed one Education Act, parts of which are still in force, dates to 1964 - when the Beatles toured New Zealand.

“The Bill will bring all legislation on early learning, schooling and tertiary education into a single statute.

“New Zealanders told us, in the Kōrero Mātauranga | Education Conversation, that they want a learner-focused, high-quality, culturally responsive, and inclusive education system.

"The Bill turns many of their ideas for the future of education into reality.

“Many of the changes underpin the Government’s plans to transform schooling, following the conversation and the Tomorrow’s Schools taskforce report.”

The Bill’s proposed main changes for schooling include:

  • Establishing a Code of Conduct, setting minimum conduct standards for board members
  • Introducing minimum eligibility criteria school boards will have to follow when appointing school principals, to ensure schools have the highest standards of leadership
  • Ensuring more local children can attend their local schools by shifting responsibility for enrolment schemes from boards to the Ministry of Education. Boards will continue to have input into enrolment schemes
  • Requiring boards to consult with their students (as appropriate), their staff and school communities when making school rules

Other proposed changes resulting from Cabinet decisions on recent consultations include changing restraint requirements where teachers may be allowed to use physical force, as a last resort, to keep students safe. Seclusion - that is, the solitary confinement of a student in a room or area - will remain prohibited.

Other changes include:

  • Renaming  special schools as  “specialist schools” to focus on the skills and resources needed for their learners
  • Clarifying that the right to education includes a right to attend for all hours a school is open for instruction. The change will mean that students needing learning support in particular can no longer be excluded from schools for all the hours that they are open
  • Requiring state primary and intermediate schools and kura that allow religious instruction to do so on an ‘opt- in’ basis. This will ensure parental consent for a student’s participation

The Bill's proposals for early learning services include giving the Education Review Office (ERO) more powers to review the quality of home based early learning services.

Other proposals include:

  • Introducing a two stage application process for early learning licences. This would allow a minister, in the first stage, to assess an application against current network capacity, the applicant’s suitability and licensing history, and the financial position of the organisation applying
  • Requiring police vetting for all adults living or present in a home where home based early learning and care are offered
  • Increasing the fine for early learning centres operating without a licence to a maximum of $50,000

Hipkins said boards, educators, learners, and whānau will be supported in the transition to the new education system.

“The proposed Education Service Agency (ESA), for example, will support boards with any changes to their roles.

"And the planned Leadership Centre will grow school leadership to further improve learner progress, wellbeing and achievement,” he said.

“Support for the Bill’s changes will also come from 620 new Learning Support co-ordinators in schools, replacing deciles with equity funding, increasing te reo teacher numbers, and boosting funding for early learning services.

“The Education and Training Bill will help ensure a stronger, higher quality and more responsive education system for all our learners.

"I look forward to people giving their views during the Select Committee process.”